Challengers ready to pounce in National Two South
In recent weeks, the promotion race in National Two South has taken many twists and turns and for the neutral, it has been brilliant entertainment. Expect it to continue this weekend.
League leaders Chinnor are currently going through a sticky spell which has seen their advantage at the top cut to three points. Second placed the Old Elthamians have been joined by Bishops Stortford as both sides battle it out for a space in the top two while the chasing pack is on their coattails.
Redruth and Taunton go head-to-head this weekend with both sides just four points off the play-off place as things stand. Even at this early stage of the season, this weekend could prove critical in the race for promotion.
Elsewhere, bottom of the table Exmouth will be desperate for victory when they host Clifton while Barnstaple, Cinderford and Canterbury will harbour hopes of extending their current unbeaten runs.
Chinnor v Worthing Raiders
Chinnor are enjoying a fine season in National Two South so far this term and they currently sit on top of this division as we enter December. The Black and Whites sit three points clear of the Old Elthamians and Bishops Stortford, but they’ll undoubtedly be feeling the pressure to stay in top spot especially after their results over the last few weeks.
Having begun the season with 10 straight wins, Matt Williams’ men have had a slight wobble as they have lost two of their last three matches. Defeats to Canterbury and Bishops Stortford mean the South Oxfordshire side are now looking nervously over their shoulder and they’ll be desperate to return to winning ways this weekend. Chinnor welcome Worthing Raiders to Kingsey Road having won all seven of their home games this term.
Worthing Raiders are struggling for consistency in National Two South. Ahead of their clash with the league leaders tomorrow, the Raiders have won just one of their last seven games which has seen them slip down to 11th in the table and just four points clear of the relegation zone.
Jody Levett will now be hoping for better going forward. Having worked so hard at the beginning of the season where his side won four of their first six matches, Worthing have failed to build on that. Their task this weekend isn’t the easiest either as they travel to Chinnor having won just one of their seven away matches this term – that sole victory coming on the opening day of the season against Exmouth.
Bury St Edmunds v Old Elthamians
Bury St Edmunds will have been very encouraged by recent results in National Two South. Bury have won three of their last four matches and as a result have climbed away from the bottom three and up to eighth in the table. Those victories have allowed the Wolfpack to amass an 11 point difference between themselves and the relegation zone which was exactly what the doctor ordered for Gavin Hogg’s men.
It had been a frustrating start to the season for Bury St Edmunds as they picked up just two wins from their first nine games and they were staring a tough season in the face. Their recent upturn in form has now dispelled that difficult start and Bury will be looking to continue their positive sequence of results when they host the Old Elthamians. Bury head into their final home game of the season having won five and lost two at the Haberden.
Ahead of the weekend’s fixtures in National Two South, the Old Elthamians currently occupy second place in the table. A tough test against Bury St Edmunds awaits the OEs this weekend, but Gavin Lach’s men look as though they have recaptured their confidence and they are certainly in no mood to give up their top two spot.
Prior to back to back victories over Exmouth and Barnes, the OEs had lost successive games which had seen them drop out of the top two, but they have rallied back and head to Suffolk this weekend aiming to begin December with another away win. The OEs have won six of their seven matches on the road this season and they’ll be hoping their final away trip of the season ends in another victory.
Redingensians v Bishops Stortford
The Redingensians look as though they are recreating the form that saw them have such as successful season in National Two South last year. The Rams were promoted in 2015 and finished the campaign in seventh place and after 13 matches this term, the Berkshire side find themselves in the same position. However, the men from Old Bath Road will be keen to improve their recent results as we approach the midway point of the season.
Before their game with Canterbury in Round 12, the Redingensians were on a six game unbeaten run but defeat to the City Men was followed by a loss against Clifton last week which has actually halted the Rams’ progress up the division. They now need to regroup as they prepare for a tough challenge against Bishops Stortford this weekend. The Redingensians have won on three occasions at Old Bath Road this season and they’ll have be on top of their game to add to that tally this weekend.
Bishops Stortford’s chances of automatic promotion from National Two South were handed a major boost last weekend when they triumphed over league leaders Chinnor. That victory leaves them level on points with second place the Old Elthamians, but only three points behind the table toppers heading into Round 14.
Andy Long’s side certainly deserve to be in the mix too. Seven wins from their last eight games is the best record in the division and it has changed Stortford from potential play-off hopefuls to serious title contenders. What is key for the men from Silver Leys is that they carry this momentum into the Christmas break, starting with this weekend’s clash with the Redingensians. Stortford have won five of their seven away matches this term, but were beaten in their last game on the road by Redruth.
Redruth v Taunton Titans
It’s been a strong season for Redruth so far. Perhaps a change of coach may have unsettled the Reds, but it has only strengthened their position in National Two South. After finishing in a commendable fourth place last season, the Cornwall-based side sit in fourth place this time around having won 10 of their 13 games this campaign.
With that in mind, there is no reason for Redruth not to harbour promotion ambitions. They welcome Taunton Titans to the Recreation Ground knowing they are only four points off second place and they are also high on confidence too. The Reds have won three games on the bounce and they will be hoping to add to that this weekend, not only to extend their run, but to keep themselves firmly in the hunt for a top two spot.
Taunton Titans are in the same boat as Redruth. The Titans take the 129 mile trip to Cornwall this weekend level on points with their hosts and with an eye on the top two places. It hasn’t all been plain sailing for Tony Yapp’s men though as they’ve had to claw their way back into this promotion race after such a positive start to the season.
The Somerset-based side won their opening five matches and were sitting pretty at the top of this division, but what followed dented their promotion hopes massively. Just one win from four matches in October saw Taunton slip out of contention, but a revival in November as launched them right into the mix. They have won three of their last four games and head to Redruth in search of their sixth away victory of the season.
Barnes v Canterbury
Barnes are hoping that they can move away from trouble in National Two South as quickly as possible. The South-West London side were promoted to this level in 2015 and had a superb season last term finishing in sixth, despite being tipped to struggle. This year however, that struggle is very real for Barnes as they look set to be embroiled in a relegation dogfight.
As things stand, Barnes currently occupy one of the relegation places after just two wins from 13 matches this season. Having said this, Barnes come into this fixture with Canterbury in arguably their best form of the campaign. They have lost two of their last five games in a run which includes a win and two draws and it leaves them in the bottom three on ‘Games Won’ as things stand. A third home victory could see them begin December outside the bottom three.
It will be a huge test for Barnes as their visitors on Saturday are certainly one of the form sides in this division. Canterbury take the trip west having won their last five matches which is exactly the consistency of results the City Men were after following a very patchy start to the campaign.
Two wins from their first eight games saw Canterbury languishing in the bottom half, but this dramatic change in form has propelled them up to sixth in the table. They are still nine points behind Redruth and Taunton, but if they were to continue this remarkable sequence of victories, Canterbury may have to reassess their aims this season as a top two spot may not be out of the realms of possibility for them.
Cinderford v Barnstaple
Cinderford earned another victory last weekend in National Two South which extended their unbeaten run to three matches. After 13 games, the men from Dockham Road sit ninth in the division following relegation from National One, but the Gloucestershire side are currently enjoying one of their more fruitful spells of the term.
Life in National Two South has been tough for Cinderford. They have had their injuries and were also deducted five points at the end of September for fielding ineligible players, which is part of the reason why they have really struggled to kick-start their season. This run they are currently on is certainly something to be positive about as they welcome Barnstaple to Gloucester this weekend. Cinderford have won on four occasions at home this season and they will feel confident of adding to that this weekend.
On Saturday afternoon, Barnstaple travel to Dockham Road and will do so in a buoyant mood. Barum have been in decent form of late and they moved out of the relegation zone for the first time this season thanks to victory over London Irish Wild Geese last weekend. The newly-promoted side have now won three of their last five matches in a run that also includes victories over Taunton Titans and Worthing Raiders.
Barnstaple are competing at this level for the first time in the club’s history and as we approach the halfway mark of the season, Steve Perry will be pretty pleased with the way his side have performed so far. They now need to keep building on their positive results and first on the agenda is this trip to Cinderford. If they are to keep progressing, Barum will have to achieve something they are yet to accomplish this season; a first victory away from home.
Exmouth v Clifton
Exmouth currently find themselves bottom of National Two South after a tough opening three months following promotion from National Three South West in May. Jon Hill’s men have struggled to adapt to life at this level and the Devonshire side are now seven points from safety as the first half of the season draws to a close.
Exmouth have won just one of their 13 games in this campaign and that victory came in the Devonshire derby against Barnstaple at the end of October. Since then, they have lost their last five matches and know more than anyone that they must turn that run of results around sooner rather than later otherwise Exmouth will be in serious trouble.
Clifton are sitting 10th in the National Two South table and would’ve certainly being boosted by their victory over the Redingensians six days ago. The South Gloucestershire side had entered that fixture on the back of two consecutive defeats, but now things are looking up once again for the Lavender and Blacks.
They travel south this weekend having won five of their last seven games which is stark contrast to the start of their season. Clifton began this campaign with just one win from their first six matches which left them sitting precariously above the relegation zone, but that has all changed. Clifton have won twice on the road this term and will fancy their chances of ending their away fixtures this season with a victory against the divisions bottom club.
Henley Hawks v London Irish Wild Geese
London Irish Wild Geese will have been fairly happy with their league positon after eight games of the season. The club were promoted in May and might have found themselves in the relegation zone just two months into the new campaign, but they managed to pick up three victories which left them 10th in the table.
Their latest victory came against Canterbury in Round Eight but since then, the Wild Geese have lost five consecutive matches and as a result, have slipped to 13th place, just one point above the relegation zone and they are only outside the bottom three on ‘Games Won.’ Things need to change quickly for the men from Hazlewood and a second away win of the season would certainly boost the confidence amongst the Wild Geese ranks.
One of only three teams currently below London Irish Wild Geese in the table are their hosts this weekend, Henley Hawks. The Hawks have managed to earn just four victories from their first 13 matches of the campaign although they will be in a much more positive mood this Saturday following a victory over Worthing in Round 12 and a very encouraging display against Taunton six days ago.
Back at Dry Leas tomorrow, Henley have won just three of their six matches in front of their own supporters which hasn’t been good enough for a side that was relegated from National One in May. Granted, they have had their injuries, but the Hawks know they need to improve and the last couple of weeks have shown they do have the quality to dig themselves out of trouble. Currently, they are a point adrift of safety so a win here could see them move out of the relegation zone.